Posted by: Elmer Brabante | October 1, 2009

Neypes vs. Court of Appeals


DOMINGO NEYPES, ET AL. vs. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.
G.R. No. 141524  (September 14, 2005)

FACTS:

Petitioners filed an action for annulment of judgment and titles of land and/or reconveyance and/or reversion with preliminary injunction before the RTC against the private respondents. Later, in an order, the trial court dismissed petitioners’ complaint on the ground that the action had already prescribed. Petitioners allegedly received a copy of the order of dismissal on March 3, 1998 and, on the 15th day thereafter or on March 18, 1998, filed a motion for reconsideration. On July 1, 1998, the trial court issued another order dismissing the motion for reconsideration which petitioners received on July 22, 1998. Five days later, on July 27, 1998, petitioners filed a notice of appeal and paid the appeal fees on August 3, 1998.

On August 4, 1998, the court a quo denied the notice of appeal, holding that it was filed eight days late. This was received by petitioners on July 31, 1998. Petitioners filed a motion for reconsideration but this too was denied in an order dated September 3, 1998. Via a petition for certiorari and mandamus under Rule 65, petitioners assailed the dismissal of the notice of appeal before the CA. In the appellate court, petitioners claimed that they had seasonably filed their notice of appeal. They argued that the 15-day reglementary period to appeal started to run only on July 22, 1998 since this was the day they received the final order of the trial court denying their motion for reconsideration. When they filed their notice of appeal on July 27, 1998, only five days had elapsed and they were well within the reglementary period for appeal. On September 16, 1999, the CA dismissed the petition. It ruled that the 15-day period to appeal should have been reckoned from March 3, 1998 or the day they received the February 12, 1998 order dismissing their complaint. According to the appellate court, the order was the “final order” appealable under the Rules.

ISSUES:

(1) Whether or not receipt of a final order triggers the start of the 15-day reglmentary period to appeal, the February 12, 1998 order dismissing the complaint or the July 1, 1998 order dismissing the Motion for Reconsideration.

(2) Whether or not petitioners file their notice of appeal on time.

HELD:

(1)  The July 1, 1998 order dismissing the motion for reconsideration should be deemed as the final order. In the case of Quelnan v. VHF Philippines, Inc., the trial court declared petitioner non-suited and accordingly dismissed his complaint. Upon receipt of the order of dismissal, he filed an omnibus motion to set it aside. When the omnibus motion was filed, 12 days of the 15-day period to appeal the order had lapsed. He later on received another order, this time dismissing his omnibus motion. He then filed his notice of appeal. But this was likewise dismissed ― for having been filed out of time. The court a quo ruled that petitioner should have appealed within 15 days after the dismissal of his complaint since this was the final order that was appealable under the Rules. The SC reversed the trial court and declared that it was the denial of the motion for reconsideration of an order of dismissal of a complaint which constituted the final order as it was what ended the issues raised there. This pronouncement was reiterated in the more recent case of Apuyan v. Haldeman et al. where the SC again considered the order denying petitioner’s motion for reconsideration as the final order which finally disposed of the issues involved in the case. Based on the aforementioned cases, the SC sustained petitioners’ view that the order dated July 1, 1998 denying their motion for reconsideration was the final order contemplated in the Rules.

(2)    YES. To standardize the appeal periods provided in the Rules and to afford litigants fair opportunity to appeal their cases, the Court deems it practical to allow a fresh period of 15 days within which to file the notice of appeal in the RTC, counted from receipt of the order dismissing a motion for a new trial or motion for reconsideration. Henceforth, this “fresh period rule” shall also apply to Rule 40, Rule 42, Rule 43 and Rule 45. The new rule aims to regiment or make the appeal period uniform, to be counted from receipt of the order denying the motion for new trial, motion for reconsideration (whether full or partial) or any final order or resolution.

The SC thus held that petitioners seasonably filed their notice of appeal within the fresh period of 15 days, counted from July 22, 1998 (the date of receipt of notice denying their motion for reconsideration). This pronouncement is not inconsistent with Rule 41, Section 3 of the Rules which states that the appeal shall be taken within 15 days from notice of judgment or final order appealed from. The use of the disjunctive word “or” signifies disassociation and independence of one thing from another. It should, as a rule, be construed in the sense in which it ordinarily implies. Hence, the use of “or” in the above provision supposes that the notice of appeal may be filed within 15 days from the notice of judgment or within 15 days from notice of the “final order,” which we already determined to refer to the July 1, 1998 order denying the motion for a new trial or reconsideration.

Neither does this new rule run counter to the spirit of Section 39 of BP 129 which shortened the appeal period from 30 days to 15 days to hasten the disposition of cases. The original period of appeal (in this case March 3-18, 1998) remains and the requirement for strict compliance still applies. The fresh period of 15 days becomes significant only when a party opts to file a motion for new trial or motion for reconsideration. In this manner, the trial court which rendered the assailed decision is given another opportunity to review the case and, in the process, minimize and/or rectify any error of judgment. While we aim to resolve cases with dispatch and to have judgments of courts become final at some definite time, we likewise aspire to deliver justice fairly.

To recapitulate, a party litigant may either file his notice of appeal within 15 days from receipt of the RTC’s decision or file it within 15 days from receipt of the order (the “final order”) denying his motion for new trial or motion for reconsideration. Obviously, the new 15-day period may be availed of only if either motion is filed; otherwise, the decision becomes final and executory after the lapse of the original appeal period provided in Rule 41, Section 3. Petitioners here filed their notice of appeal on July 27, 1998 or five days from receipt of the order denying their motion for reconsideration on July 22, 1998. Hence, the notice of appeal was well within the fresh appeal period of 15 days, as already discussed.

NOTE:

The “FRESH PERIOD RULE” do not apply to Rule 64 (Review of Judgments and Final Orders or Resolutions of the Commission on Elections and the Commission on Audit) because Rule 64 is derived from the Constitution. It is likewise doubtful whether it will apply to criminal cases.

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